Better Fall Photography

Storm clouds and fall color in northern Utah's Wasatch Mountains.

Storm clouds and fall color in northern Utah's Wasatch Mountains.

Fall is quite possibly my favorite season. Perhaps it’s because the change in the air is so dramatic. Color, crispness, cooler temps–it’s allllll good. Fall pushes photographers everywhere to dig out both their camera and their personal commitment to creating meaningful imagery. It’s exciting to see the lanscape change so drastically, and quite honestly–there’s beauty in nearly every direction. Nothing fuels a photographer’s fire like gorgeous subject matter at a stone’s throw from nearly every canyon drive.

I’ve had opportunity to get out quite a bit with several workshop students and shoot some of fall’s finest here in northern Utah. The weather, however, has been challenging for the most part, with clear skies and warm temperatures. It has forced us to get creative and really search for meaningful shots without dramatic skies. We did luck out one morning with fantastic storm clouds, and we took full advantage, knowing it was a gift.

An AdamBarkerPhotography workshop student shoots first light at Silver Lake, Brighton, UT.

An AdamBarkerPhotography workshop student shoots first light at Silver Lake, Brighton, UT.

While gorgeous in their own right, colorful leaves don’t themselves a memorable image make. I imagine you, just as countless others, have come home from your fall photography forays only to find your images were flat and struggled to convey the sense of grandeur that you witnessed in person. The challenge, is depth. Conveying depth in our fall images is what really helps to take the viewer “there”. A flat mountainside with pretty leaves just won’t cut it. Sure, it’s pretty. But does it have impact? Probably not. Read below for a couple of tips on creating fall images with depth.

Fall color in Utah's Wasatch Mountains.

Fall color in Utah's Wasatch Mountains.

1. Establish compositional zones. Find foregrounds, middle grounds and backgrounds for your images. Longer lens shots fall images here in the Wasatch are particularly well suited to this, with intersecting ridge lines and areas of strong color.

Late light long lens landscape at Snowbird, UT

Late light long lens landscape at Snowbird, UT

2. Search out broken light. Spotty clouds cast spotty or broken light. This random placement of lit and shaded areas carries viewers through the frame and creates that near/far perspective that helps to convey three dimensionality.

An AdamBarkerPhotography workshop student waits for evening light amidst swirling storm clouds.

An AdamBarkerPhotography workshop student waits for evening light amidst swirling storm clouds.

3. Use a polarizing filter. Even better, know where and how to use it most effectively. A polarizer will help to reveal full color in the foliage, by removing the natural sheen or reflection. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly (especially on those boring, crystal clear days), a polarizer will deepen skies, helping to add depth and interest to your fall photos. A polarizer is most effective when shot at 90 degrees to the sun–find those compositions that help the polarizer help you!

Dawn light and fall color at Park City's iconic Osguthorpe Barn

Dawn light and fall color at Park City's iconic Osguthorpe Barn

4. Change your angle to the sun. Fall color takes on a completely different look, depending on your angle to the sun. Front lit aspens can appear dull and washed out, but as soon as place that light source behind them, they glow with life. This is a technique you can use to capture stunning imagery even into the mid-day hours.

An AdamBarkerPhotography workshop student, enveloped by backlit aspens.

An AdamBarkerPhotography workshop student, enveloped by backlit aspens.

5. Use Grad ND Filters. Not sure what they are? Search this blog or get on the Google. I use Singh Ray filters–the best! There’s absolutely no better tool out there for balancing difficult dynamic ranges and allowing you to capture dramatic skies.

Storm clouds and lightning bolt at first light over Utah's Wasatch Mountains.

Storm clouds and lightning bolt at first light over Utah's Wasatch Mountains.

6. Get out there. The golden rule of landscape photography. Simply being there will allow you to make magic. It’s too easy to stay home and wait for what you think might be the perfect conditions to capture that five-star fall keeper. How do you know that you haven’t already missed it? Nothing helps to get the creative juices flowing like being out in nature. You’re sure to find something that floats your boat, and then some. Forget the boring weather forecasts or lackluster color-get out there and find a way to excel behind the lens.

Interested in putting this into practice in the field with yours truly? Check out my workshop page for details.

Recently Published Work

It’s been a great couple of months on the editorial front lately. Super pleased to have numerous shots in several different publications. Looking forward to sharing more once several ski issues hit newsstands.

Ski Magazine Resort Guide Lifestyle Opener, Julian Carr at Alta, UT

Skier Julian Carr at Alta, UT as seen in Ski Magazine

Skier Julian Carr at Alta, UT as seen in Ski Magazine

Ski Magazine Buyer’s Guide Table of Contents, Todd Ligare at Alta, UT

Todd Ligare at Alta, UT as seen in Ski Magazine

Todd Ligare at Alta, UT as seen in Ski Magazine

Ski Magazine “Where Is It?” full page, Skier Brant Moles

Skier Brant Moles as seen in Ski Magazine

Skier Brant Moles as seen in Ski Magazine

Flyfish Journal Gallery Spread, Speckled Mayfly

Speckled Mayfly gallery spread in the Flyfish Journal

Speckled Mayfly gallery spread in the Flyfish Journal

Flyfish Journal Gallery Spread, Various Belize Images

Various Belize images as seen in the Flyfish Journal

Various Belize images as seen in the Flyfish Journal

Flyfish Journal Gallery Spread, Various Belize Images

Various Belize images as seen in the Flyfish Journal

Various Belize images as seen in the Flyfish Journal

Trout Unlimited 2011 Calendar, Angler Matt Warner on the Middle Provo River, UT

Angler Matt Warner on the MIddle Provo River, UT, as seen in the 2011 Trout Unlimited Calendar

Angler Matt Warner on the MIddle Provo River, UT, as seen in the 2011 Trout Unlimited Calendar

Fly Fusion Magazine Six-page photo essay (missing a couple pages here, but you get the gist!)

Photo Essay in Fly Fusion Magazine

Photo Essay in Fly Fusion Magazine

Photo Essay in Fly Fusion Magazine

Photo Essay in Fly Fusion Magazine

Photo Essay in Fly Fusion Magazine

Photo Essay in Fly Fusion Magazine

Fly Fusion Magazine Table of Contents, Unknown angler on the Madison River, MT

Fly Fusion Magazine Table of Contents, Madison River, MT

Fly Fusion Magazine Table of Contents, Madison River, MT

Photographer Adam Barker named as Mountain Khakis Premier Ambassador

Photographer Adam Barker shooting in Zion National Park in his Mountain Khakis alpine utility pant.  p: Kevin Winzeler

Photographer Adam Barker shooting in Zion National Park in his Mountain Khakis alpine utility pant. p: Kevin Winzeler

AdamBarkerPhotography is pleased to announce an exciting new partnership with respected outdoor apparel manufacturer Mountain Khakis, as Barker has been named a premier ambassador for the rugged and functional pant and short brand.

Says Barker, “I am a huge proponent of using gear that helps me capture five-star imagery for all to enjoy. Spending a significant amount of time in the outdoors in adverse conditions means I’m incredibly tough on the equipment and apparel I use. My Mountain Khakis stand up to the abuse with aplomb, and I can’t seem to make myself wear anything else when headed out to shoot”.

Built for the mountain life, and regarded as the “best damn ‘hips down’ apparel on the planet”, the Mountain Khakis brand has garnered deep respect from individuals who work and play in the mountain environment on a daily basis.

As an ambassador, Barker will regularly relay tales of adventure on the Mountain Khakis website and blog, and through various other social media avenues. Additionally Barker will use and promote Mountain Khakis in his daily exploits as a professional photographer.

Jen Taylor, Public Relations manager for Mountain Khakis adds, “we’re excited to welcome Adam to the MK team. His inspiring outdoor imagery and accomplishments in his field have garnered respect and admiration from fellow professionals and outdoor enthusiasts around the globe. We look forward to working together with Adam in continuing to grow the Mountain Khakis brand in outdoor circles everywhere”.

About photographer Adam Barker

Adam Barker is an award-winning photographer and noted educator specializing in scenic landscape, active lifestyle and destination imagery. His work has been featured in numerous publications including Outdoor Photographer, Ski, Skiing, Volkswagen’s Das Auto,  American Angler, The Drake, Fly Fisherman, the Flyfish Journal,  USA Today and many more. Visit www.adambarkerphotography.com to view his work.

About Mountain Khakis

Established in 2003, Mountain Khakis® has quickly become a staple in the wardrobe of everyone from ranch hands to golf pros. Focused on making the best pants built for the mountain life, they have established a loyal following thanks in large part to their exemplary product and affable customer service. Hinged on stellar design, unbeatable quality and true authenticity, Mountain Khakis go the distance in both form and functionality. Visit www.mountainkhakis.com for more info.

Lasting Photography: A True Balancing Act

Black and white image of Blacktail Ponds with the Teton Mountains in the background. Grand Teton National Park, WY

Black and white image of Blacktail Ponds with the Teton Mountains in the background. Grand Teton National Park, WY

I recently returned from the Jackson Hole Arts festival and told my wife that if there was one place in the world I could have a second home, it would be Jackson Hole. It is insanely gorgeous and classic in an American West sort of way. Sure it gets clogged with tourists like you and me, but it still feels wild to some degree.

What really brings me back again and again, however, is Grand Teton National Park. The Tetons rise thousands of feet from the valley floor, piercing the sky with their jagged peaks. They look different from every angle, and it’s amazing how they take on a different character as you drive from one end of the park to the other.

I decided to spend a morning at Blacktail Ponds–a place I had not yet shot from. It was gorgeous and serene, and it felt good to be away from some of the iconic locations that find you tripod to tripod with other shooters.

By this time in the morning, the color in the clouds had become more vanilla, and less strawberry. The contrast in the scene made for a great BW conversion, and I think what you lose in color, you gain in depth.

The one thing that resonates with me about this image is one concept we often overlook. That concept is balance. Most of us know when an image just doesn’t feel right. Sometimes it’s hard to put a finger on…and most often times, it probably means your image is out of balance.

So, what to do? Check the parts of your image that draw the most attention–these are the building blocks of your image. In this image, there are four elements that really define the subject matter: grass, water, mountains and clouds. Of these four, the mountains and water(reflection) draw the most attention while the clouds and grass make for adequate secondary subjects.

You’ll notice how the mountains and reflection overlap to a degree, but for the most part, they have been placed in opposing corners. Additionally, they have been placed in opposing horizontal thirds, with adequate space both above and below them. And what fills that space? Grass and clouds–our secondary subject matter. I’m filling every inch of the frame with stuff that matters, and making sure to exclude everything else.

Proper balance is a matter of both choosing what to include as well as where to include it. It’s a concept that becomes more intuitive with every time you go out and shoot. So, go and shoot–and find that balance!